Of all the players the Orioles are counting on next season, Tim Beckham is probably the biggest mystery.
We here at Connolly’s like a good mystery. Like what’s floating in the plastic jar of whiskey at the corner of this fake bar. What’s a good tip for a phony barkeep?
And what, ultimately, will Beckham become in his big league career?
Beckham joined the Orioles after the July trade deadline and was a revelation in August, batting .394 with a 1.062 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, six homers and 19 RBIs in 29 games.
It looked as if the Orioles had pulled off the heist of the 21st century, acquiring the former No. 1 overall pick from the Tampa Bay Rays for a Low-A pitcher.
Reality struck Beckham in the final month of the season, when he slashed .180/.255/.348 and defensive lapses on routine plays opened the door for a shortstop switch this offseason.
Now, Beckham is penciled in as the Orioles’ 2018 starting third baseman, unless the club adds a veteran at the hot corner in the next few weeks.
At this point in his career – he’s 28 and entering his 11th pro season – Beckham simply wants a regular role in the big leagues and is willing to do what it takes to secure that.
On a personal note, Beckham has been a tough read since he joined the Orioles. He bonded with new teammates Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado and seemingly has fit in fine in the clubhouse.
He definitely isn’t a fan of talking to the media about his past, including his time as baseball’s top pick in Tampa, and he smartly tiptoed around the superlatives thrust at him in August — understanding that baseball is a game of peaks and valleys. He may not be effusive, but he does make himself available for the media.
And he has quickly demonstrated a genuine interest in young fans. He was an active part of the club’s Christmas party in December and, on Saturday, he is hosting his third annual free baseball clinic for children ages 6 to 14 in suburban Atlanta. That’s pretty cool, and says plenty.
So, I’m curious to see what happens with Beckham this year. To see if he grows more into a leader in his first full season as an Oriole. To see if he can handle the hot corner, and to see how he handles everything if he struggles in 2018.
I’m also curious to see what he does offensively. Depending if the Orioles add anyone before Opening Day, Beckham could be the club’s primary leadoff man. It’s not necessarily a spot that fits his skill set so far – he has a career .310 base percentage and a .299 OBP in 54 games at leadoff. He also has struck out 303 times in 941 big league at-bats.
But he’s also probably the easiest player to bat leadoff without affecting the rest of the lineup.
I think Beckham will be fine in 2018, not as good as he was in a terrific August but better then he showed in a hollow September. At Fanfest, though, I talked to several fans who were down on Beckham, questioning whether he was a legitimate starter in the big leagues.
So, I want your opinion. What do you think Beckham will end up being in his O’s career?
Tap-In Question: What’s your take on Tim Beckham so far as an Oriole?